Photo by reallyboring // Licensed by Creative Commons

The aching in my chest is startlingly familiar. I lay on a mattress with only a crisp cotton top sheet, too exhausted to finish putting the comforter on my bed. How did I get here?

Wake up. Go to class. Go back to room. Nap. Go to class. Nap. Go to class. Go do homework. Workout. Shower. Sleep. Maybe.

It’s a routine. A normal one? I guess by my standards. What’s normal anymore? These nights, the nights I lie awake wondering when things will change, as my thoughts scream and my brain’s too loud for the rest of my body to get any sleep. For when my fears and hopes and dreams are the upstairs neighbors who bang on the floor above my ceiling all night, making silence unfathomable. But these are the kind of neighbors I can’t just politely ask to be quiet.

They are relentless. They follow me everywhere. They are ghosts of my past, present, and future. I wish I could blame them for things that happen, blame them for the things that go wrong, and take all the credit for myself when things go right. That is, if things do go right.

They haven’t been right in a while, despite highs and lows. There’s a consistent hum of insecurity of dealing with something that no one else can see unless you tell them. Or a low of sitting all night wondering why you’ve found yourself alone again while you scroll through the glimpses into the world’s picture-perfect moments. But you remind yourself that that is all it is –a moment– and the blue light from your iPhone reflecting in your eyes shouldn’t affect your emotions the way that it does. You do belong here, right where you are.

Lows wouldn’t be lows without highs. The sunrises, the sunsets, the long walks by the water. Conversations in hushed tones as the snow falls softly outside my window. Stargazing on a deck past midnight in the late faded summer heat. The feeling of simply being secure, albeit fleeting.

Do you ever find yourself wondering, “How did I get here?” Do you ever float back through memories of nostalgia, wanting to transport yourself in a moment, wanting it to last forever? Do you ever wish you were anywhere but where you are, or wish you didn’t know what you know?

The neighbors are pounding at my door, begging for the answers to these questions. But a yes or no won’t suffice. They want the whys, the hows, the whos, whats, whens, and wheres. They want everything. These neighbors are exhausting.

I lay on the mattress still with the neighbors at my door. Do I let them in?